HANCOCK COUNTY – A blood sample taken after an alleged drunk-driving crash in 2012 was destroyed in the five years that passed between the incident and when prosecutors filed felony charges against the Greenfield driver they say is responsible for the collision.
Now, the driver’s attorney says the case needs to be dismissed because the missing evidence makes it impossible for him to have a fair trial, court documents state.
Martin Smith, 48, 3303 W. U.S. 40, Greenfield, says prosecutors violated his constitutional rights when they filed a felony drunken-driving case against him five years after the crash.
Evidence of the crime has been destroyed, and memories of witnesses will have faded in the years that have passed, making it difficult for Smith to mount a proper defense, his attorney argues.
Smith faces a single Class C felony count of operating a vehicle while intoxicated causing serious bodily injury from an accident dating back to August 2012, records show.
Police believe Smith was drunk behind the wheel when he ran a stop sign near the intersection of County Road 300W and State Road 234, causing an accident that seriously injured a local woman, according to court documents.
Sheriff’s deputies say they filed paperwork with the prosecutor’s office in 2012 a few days after the accident, but the document was misplaced and never filed with the clerk, officials said. Prosecutors uncovered the paperwork earlier this earlier this year and brought criminal charges against Smith in March — months before the statute of limitations was due to run out.
But Martin’s defense attorneys say the case brought against their client is unfair and violates the man’s due process rights.
Indianapolis attorney Russell Cate, one of lawyers representing Martin in the case, called the gap in time between the crash and the case filing “a deliberate delay that works to the advantage” of prosecutors in a motion to the court.
Evidence from the case — particularly a blood sample taken from the defendant following the accident — has been destroyed, Cate wrote. This means Martin’s attorneys will not have a chance to conduct their own tests on the sample, violating due-process rights granted in the Fifth Amendment of the federal constitution, Cate wrote.
Prosecutors have “no justification for the delay” in filing charges, Cate wrote in the motion to dismiss.
In addition to the five years that have passed since the accident, prosecutor waited five months to file charges against Martin even after the old case file was discovered, Cate wrote. Prosecutors told the Daily Reporter they unearthed the 2012 charging documents against Martin while cleaning in November 2016; charges were not filed against Martin until March 2017, records show.
Coupled together, these factors hurt Martin’s ability to formulate a good defense and “serve to weaken or impair the defendant’s right to a fair trial,” Cate wrote in the motion, according to court documents.
“The state’s intentional decision not to file charges at or near the time the incident occurred and then to intentionally allow the evidence pertaining to this case to be destroyed … is highly prejudicial to the defendant’s case,” the motion states.
Investigators say Smith ran a stop sign while driving south on County Road 300W on Aug. 8, 2012, colliding with passenger car that was headed eastbound on State Road 234, according to police reports.
Two people in the car were injured, including a woman who fractured her spine, officials said. She reportedly has since recovered.
Sheriff’s deputies immediately suspected Smith was drunk, reports state: officers who responded to the crash “could smell the odor of an alcoholic beverage” on Smith, according to police reports. A test later showed he had a blood-alcohol content of .25 percent – nearly three times the legal driving limit of .08, officials said.
Smith also had glassy, bloodshot eyes and poor balance, was slurring his words and was aggressive with first-responders at the scene of the accident, officials said.
Smith has a history of drunken-driving, records state: he pleaded guilty to operating while intoxicated in 2009 in Hendricks County and served a year on probation.
Deputies handed a crash report over to then-prosecutor Michael Griffin’s office following the crash.
Brent Eaton, the current prosecutor, told the Daily Reporter an employee found the document while clearing out old paperwork left behind by the previous administration.
Martin will appear in Hancock County Superior Court 1 at 10 a.m. Oct. 16 to ask Judge Terry Snow to dismiss the case against him.
The Class C felony count his faces carries a maximum penalty of eight years in prison.